Cardiff 5K - Race For Victory 2022
Updated: May 12, 2022
After pulling out of the Cardiff Half 2022 I was really looking forward to racing again. Even more so because the Cardiff 5k has an excellent reputation and is right on my doorstep.
I had slowly been building back up my training, but my speed was not where it had been. I had completed four parkruns in recent weeks including a couple of hilly ones in Ireland as well the energy sapping Woolacombe Dunes, which set me up well for the event.
The Cardiff 5K Race For Victory is the Welsh 5K Road Racing Championship which as a result brings together a stellar line up including teams from Wales, England the Tri-Service as well as a whole host of very fast club runners. The closed-road route is lined with spectators along its length and there is a party atmosphere on Whitchurch high street with live bands and street food stalls.
In the days leading up to the race the weather had been glorious and as preparations continued the atmosphere began to build. However, with race day came clouds threatening rain all afternoon. Thankfully it remained dry until after the race providing good conditions and a cool evening run for all 1,300 runners and hundreds of supporters and spectators.
After a brief, token-gesture warm up I made my way into my start pen and waited patiently for the gun. The elite runners were then introduced and we were treated to a song by a local school girl as the high street got busier and busier around us.
The gun went off... and it was a good five seconds before I could actually start moving, then several more before I crossed the start line. The pen was narrow and as we funnelled over the start line some runners at the sides nearly collided with the start/finish barrier. By the time I crossed the line the leaders were a hundred metres ahead and my chance of winning (ha ha) had gone.
The route is entirely road with one 'hill' at 4km, prior to that it is predominantly downhill and fast! Three hundred metres into the race I glanced at my watch to check my pace (I was trying not to get too carried away): the race-day adrenaline and being surrounded by fast runners resulted in me running at a pace I had not been able to comfortable hold in training for quite some time. Luckily my legs and my lungs held out, but at 3km I was wishing it was over, especially as the route started to climb (a railway bridge). My legs were getting heavier and I was slowing considerably, though not as much as those around me; this realisation encouraged me to dig a little deeper and push a little harder. Once on the flat again I found it difficult to keep my pace and stay with those around me.
With 1km to go I spotted my girlfriend and daughter who gave a big smile and a wave. I tried to hide the burning in my legs and lungs to smile and wave for the camera (did I manage it?).
With 800m to go I checked my watch and realised that I may have been able to go sub 20 minutes; just needed to keep the pace and ignore the pain. Next I saw a topless man in short-shorts cruising past; the race winner Jake Smith, who finished in a time of 13:59 setting a Welsh All Comers record and casually warming down faster than the majority of us were able to sprint.
As I turned the last corner back onto the high street, I knew I'd gone sub 20 but tried not to relax (or vomit) and stayed strong for a sprint finish. I finally crossed the line in 19:40 my main focus on trying to remember how to breathe.
Cardiff 5km was a fantastic event. It is not a distance I run often, with parkruns tagged into the middle of longer training sessions. The party atmosphere would really have benefited if the weather had been better but the race would have been harder as a result. I will definitely be looking to enter this again in the future and would strongly encourage others to do so and to spend some time enjoying the festival atmosphere in Whitchurch.
When i had caught my breath it was good to catch up with my old friend Joe (who managed to run 16:00!), talking pacing, shoes and cheering on those yet to cross the line.